athelind: (Default)
Okay, kids. Politics time.

First: On Elections.

[livejournal.com profile] rodant_kapoor just said everything that needs to be said about yesterday's special election in Massachusetts.

Second:On Activism.

I've heard some comments that there's more to participating in democracy than just saying, "I voted; now it's their turn to sort things out."

I really want to do things. I really want to make my voice heard. I really want to do that activism thing.

Unlike Billy Joel's "Angry Young Man", I haven't "passed the age / of consciousness and rightous rage". I just don't know what to do with it.

The only leads I've found in that direction have been canvassing, either door-to-door, on the phone, or stuffing envelopes.

You cannot convince me that this is significant or effective.

I don't treat political solicitors any differently than I do commercial or religious ones. At the door, on my phone or in my mailbox, they are an uninvited intrusion on the sanctity and privacy of my home.

I will politely turn away a political canvasser on my doorstep. I will rather less politely inform an unsolicited caller that I am "not interested". I will briefly glance at political mail to see if the candidate in question expresses views that coincide with my own, and if so, I'll put their name on my list of candidates to consider.

I almost always assume that the claims being made for or against Proposition X or Candidate Y are unreliable, at best, and flat-out lies, at worst. When election time rolls around, I troll the web looking for independent analyses and recommendations, but I don't trust unsolicited opinions.

And this is my reaction for the canvassers that I agree with. I have a hard time believing that this kind of activity is actually going to change anybody's mind.

Am I just stubborn? Am I too cynical to believe that J. Random Doorbell might be swayed by the presentation of reasonable arguments and evidence-based debunkings of misinformation? Or, despite my adherence to Colbert's memorable statement that "Reality has a well-known liberal bias", am I too cynical to believe that "my side" will provide me that kind of good, solid data to present?

Am I just an antisocial jerk who likes to hang up on people and slam doors in their face?

Really, are independent voters any more eager to have zealots idealists concerned citizens pounding on their door or ringing them up in the middle of dinner or the latest episode of Supernatural than Your Obedient Serpent is?

Heck, if I were an "independent" rather than a liberal technocrat, I'd probably wind up voting for the party that bothered me the least.

I suppose this boils down to two questions:

One, are my door-slamming habits atypical?

Two, what kinds of "grass-roots activity" are out there that don't include pestering the neighbors?


athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
Fasten your seatbelts, kids; this post starts talking about current Pop Culture, then veers into politics, philosophy, personal development, and metaprogramming.

It all started when I was doing something I normally avoid: reading comments on an internet blog. Unmoderated comment boards are usually overflowing with ill-considered, insulting, infuriating nonsense that can completely ruin an article I may have otherwise enjoyed.

In this case, however, the opposite occurred.

The io9 Blog's review of James Cameron's Avatar is the same blah-blah-blah-Mighty-Whitey-IN-SPACE critique that I've heard over and over. Nothing new here. The comments, on the other claw, are full of feedback from non-whites and non-Americans that undercut that as a being a white-Americans-are-the-center-of-the-universe interpretation that's at least as insulting, if not moreso.

I think my favorite comment thus far is this one:
All stories are about someone leaving a group or joining a group, it's just that some of these groups are a racial group. Outsider Luke Skywalker joins the rebels and becomes their number one gun. That's a heroic journey story, but if Luke was the only human and all the rest of the rebels were aliens suddenly it becomes a white guilt story? I don't buy it.


And now, Mood Whiplash. This shook some things out in my head, and I think they're worth sharing:

I've been sorting through the cognitive baggage cluttering my mind lately, and you know what? I think that "White Guilt" is a particularly toxic meme. To be more specific, there's a pervasive idea that any action that may have "White Guilt" as a motivating force is automatically invalid, or just more cultural imperialism. This is bullshit. It is an invitation to inaction.

Your Obedient Serpent, when he's not a dragon, is a middle-aged Anglo-American, raised in a middle-class suburb, who's seriously considering an opportunity to teach middle school science in a "high-need", inner-city environment. The very idea of standing in front of a classroom is a massive paradigm shift for him, and coming to this decision has involved jumping over a lot of mental hurdles.

You know what? True Confession Time: One of them was "Mighty Whitey".

"What right do you have to come swooping in with your degree and your laptop and your melanin deficiency, to try and "save" these kids? That's no different than England coking along to "civilize" India!"

Sounds really stupid when you verbalize it, doesn't it?

But people keep saying this, over and over: these stories are bad, they're unprincipled, they're just new and different ways for the privileged to lord it over everyone else. And if these stories are morally suspect, and your life-choices parallel them, why, then, those must be bad choices, right?

Once again: it sounds really stupid when you verbalize it. Stupid and arrogant. The only thing more arrogant than casting yourself as The Great Savior is to walk away from helping people because you're afraid people will think that's what you're doing.

That's part of the point: there are a lot of unexamined assumptions that mass media promulgates on an entirely sub-verbal level. It's good to examine them, it's good to scrutinize them -- but it's an iterative process. What unexamined assumptions are the critiques carrying with them?

One of the big ones, in this case, is the assumption that any real person's real life is simplistic enough to use fiction as a valid model. This isn't the first time I've fallen into that trap, and I'm sure it won't be the last -- but at least now I'm aware that trap is out there.

Or in here.


athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] eggshellhammer and I just had an online conversation about gaming and pop culture that might be worth sharing, at least for my own future reference. It started out being about gaming and pop culture, anyway ... .

[livejournal.com profile] eggshellhammer:
I've been in this noir DnD game, for... I dunno. Maybe 20, 24 sessions now.

And it's getting hard.

Not that it isn't fun -- but it's hard to endure it.

Because the world I exist in when I go there is such an agonizing moral vacuum. and even though my character has such great power to kill and to endure suffering, I can't make things better.

I don't have anything I can punch that will make a better day rise.

Because in noir, there are no good decisions.

And my only power is violence.

I'm constantly trapped in cycles of violence, and I can't escape them. I can't resolve them.


Your Obedient Serpent:
Sounds frustrating.

The secret in noir is to play the Hard Boiled Detective: do the best you can, help who you can, and maintain your own integrity in the face of a hopelessly corrupt world, because, if there's any moral dimension to that existence at all, it's what you bring to it.

Your quest is noble because it's futile.

The difference between Philip Marlowe and Don Quixote is that Marlowe knows that he's not going to win in the long run, and that even his little victories are often Pyhrric. But he keeps pushing on, because there's an important difference between "Not Winning" and Giving Up.

When you give up, you've lost.

If you keep pushing, and fighting, and striving, then even if you haven't won -- you haven't lost.

If you were playing in a Gothic-Punk game like the old World of Darkness, that would be part of it. Part of playing that game is embracing the Emo. Noir isn't too far off from that. You're a Tragic Hero, and you know it -- and that's what gives you strength. You're standing in front of the tank in Tiannamon Square, and flipping it off.

The Hard Boiled Detective doesn't back down, doesn't compromise, and if he gets the shit kicked out of him or gets killed, he does so knowing that he did it on his terms.

The people who look at an "agonizing moral vacuum" and decide it doesn't matter what they do, that they can kill and torture and do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals?

They've already lost.

The people who curl up in despair because they're not Saving the World? They've lost, too.


...and somewhere along the line, I think I might have stopped talking to Eggshell about his game.


And no, I didn't realize the inherent pun in advising "Eggshell" to play a "hard-boiled" character until I was almost ready to post this. Observing this in the Comments is both redundant and unnecessary.
athelind: (Eye - VK)


Some days, I know exactly how this feels.


From [livejournal.com profile] fortysevenbteg, via [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking.
athelind: (Default)
I don't do a lot of this, but I'm feeling introspective today:

I've found far too many jobs that require a Master's degree; now I really wish I'd stuck around Monterey Bay and gone to Moss Landing Marine Labs to get it.

People look at my capstone paper on Elkhorn Slough, and express surprise that it's not a Master's Thesis; sitting right there at the mouth of the Slough, I could have turned it into one in two years easily, or three at the outside -- so, figure 2005-2006, and wham, more employable out the gate.

And that would have been a lot more productive than flailing around half-assed for six years on a hunt for an entry-level position.

Of course, if I'm gonna start doing Shoulda-Woulda-Coulda, if I'd stayed in the Coast Guard and gone to Marine Science Technician school, I could have retired in 2005, to start a whole new life with a government pension backing me up.

In this timeline, however, I'm looking for entry-level work at 45.

Oh, just to add you-know to you-know: NOAA's recruiting for officers. I meet the requirements perfectly, and exceed them in places, save one: "Be able to complete 20 years of active duty before turning 62."

I know I checked NOAA out right after graduation, when I was 39. Gods as my witnesses, the age cap then was 38. Not "complete 20 by 58", but 38, flat-out.

I would have turned 42 in 2006, incidentally. Why is that year the watershed date (pun inevitable) in all these what-if scenarios?



athelind: (Default)
Tomorrow, for the first time since returning to school and graduating with a Real Degree, [livejournal.com profile] halfelf goes back to work, starting a new job that, gasp, actually relates to his education.


In honor of this, I thought I would offer some appropriate music:

Have fun, [livejournal.com profile] halfelf, and remember -- from now on, every Monday is really a Monday.


athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I voted today.

And now... a Reality Check.


The video says, "Hey, we liberals can sling mud, too," but honestly? We don't need to sling mud. They've got huge piles of shit all around them; all we have to do is lift up the corner of the flag they're trying to cover it all with.

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] wingywoof for the video link.

athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty likes to claim that Dragonball Z is to the '90s what Jack Kirby's Fourth World was to the '70s.

Sure, yeah. Kind of. )

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